Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort meet one another in what should be an explosive main event for the UFC on FX 7 card.
Bisping brings a diverse striking game with an "in-your-face" attitude that can overwhelm an opponent. Outside of Dan Henderson landing a H-Bomb at UFC 100, Bisping has never been knocked out in his career. He will look to avoid doing so against the powerful Belfort.
Belfort has been competing in the sport since 1996 and is one of the elder statesman of MMA. Unlike many of his older colleagues, Belfort seems to have not lost a step in recent years as he's dominated much of the competition he's faced.
A flurry of punches and kicks is to be expected in this one, but here are five other items that fans can watch for when Belfort and Bisping clash.
Michael Bisping's style is very aggressive and tends to involve getting into the face of his opponents early and often.
But will he be as aggressive as normal when facing Vitor Belfort?
Belfort is recognized as a one-punch knockout artist, and being within striking range against him should be referred to as "no man's land." Against a similar style at UFC 100, Bisping chose to circle the cage and attempt to work angles as to avoid the powerful right hand of Dan Henderson.
I see Bisping employing a similar strategy against Belfort, as he'll want to use his kicks to keep Belfort and his left hand at bay. But given how much trash talking Bisping has engaged in, it wouldn't surprise me to see him throw caution to the wind.
While Vitor Belfort is a very smart fighter, he may fall into the trap of attempting to knock Michael Bisping out with one punch.
If so, it will likely lead to Bisping teeing off on Belfort as he looks for a single punch. Part of what makes Belfort a great fighter is his hand speed; even if it's throwing two or three straight punches in a row, Belfort will need to put some combinations together.
Looking for a single punch will play into Bisping's game plan: to out-work, and methodically pick the Brazilian apart.
Fans need only watch Michael Bisping's fight against Wanderlei Silva to understand the importance of the last few seconds of a round. Silva consistently turned up the offense in the final seconds of each round, which enabled him to steal rounds that may have otherwise went to the Englishman.
Will Vitor Belfort employ a similar strategy against Bisping?
Belfort is very explosive and certainly has the power to wobble Bisping in the stand-up game. In a close round, landing those final strikes with a few seconds remaining could pay big dividends for Belfort, if the fight goes to the judge's decision.
In a five-round fight, every round gains more and more importance as the minutes tick by.
Michael Bisping is known primarily for his kickboxing ability, but is no stranger to the ground game. If the opportunity for a takedown exists, Bisping doesn't shy away from capitalizing on it.
Vitor Belfort, like his adversary, is known for his striking prowess, but is well-versed in the ground game as well. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has achieved some success on the grappling mats in jiu-jitsu competitions; this translates to a very competent MMA grappling game.
Belfort put his BJJ skills on display against UFC champ Jon Jones, nearly forcing Jones to tap out to an arm bar. The Brazilian also earned his last victory via submission when he tapped out Anthony Johnson at UFC 142.
If one man gets the better of the other on the feet, will Belfort or Bisping look to take the fight to the mat? Belfort would enjoy an advantage on the ground, but is also one of the most powerful strikers competing in MMA. Bisping may be able to pick Belfort apart on the feet, but if the chance is there to steal a round or two, will he embrace the chance of taking Belfort to guard?
Points will be at a premium if this contest moves into the later rounds, so we may see more takedowns than fans were expecting.
Brazilian crowds are well known for their energy level and notorious for their taunts to fighters competing against Brazilians. Fans need only remember the "You're going to die!" chants made at UFC 142 to refresh their memory.
Vitor Belfort will likely feed off that energy as he'll be the clear favorite against Michael Bisping. But Belfort will need to be careful and stick to his gameplan. He can't let the crowd influence how aggressive he is and risk being countered by the very technical Bisping.
Also, given Belfort's age and mileage on his body, I believe a five round fight favors the Englishman. Letting the crowd get in his head may force Belfort to gas out early and let Bisping run ahead on the score cards as the rounds wear on.
Bisping will need to drown out the crowd as well. He's been in hype-mode for weeks and as the weigh ins indicate, isn't exactly popular in Brazil. Hearing fans taunt him and boo his actions could force Bisping to become overaggressive and get tagged by a huge Belfort punch.
I'm sure the Brazilian fans remember how upset Bisping got when Jorge Rivera insulted his family and hopefully Bisping won't be affected in similar fashion by the raucous Brazilian crowd.